Best Investment Banks To Work For In 2020

A Bank of America summer intern class volunteering at a New York City park


Bank of America’s calling card was Diversity in 2020. The firm climbed from 9th to 6th thanks to ranking #1 in Overall Diversity, Minority Diversity, and LGBT Diversity (along with 2nd in Diversity For Women).  The firm also ranked among the five best in nine categories, topping the list in both CSR Initiatives and Internal Mobility and taking the silver in International Opportunities (and the bronze for Hours, Informal Training, Vacation Policies, and Work-Life Balance). Home to 208,000 employees, the firm is nearly six times larger than Goldman Sachs. That creates opportunities – or, in the words of one 2019 survey-taker: “Big banks provide big opportunities.”

“I have worked in multiple offices and groups within the investment banking group at BofA and have been offered even more diverse opportunities,” this respondent points out. “When I look for a new challenge, I have both group and institutional support, which has facilitated moves I have made. I have also benefited from multiple ‘true’ mentors—people who cared about me when I was a junior banker and who continue to invest in me as a managing director.”

Another benefit to working for Bank of America? Survey respondents say the firm takes great pains to ensure their bankers can enjoy a real life. “We have protected Saturdays (exceptions can apply),” shares another survey taker. “Being able to make plans on Saturday and know a single email won’t blow them up provides a nice psychological break from the job.”

Best of all, as evidenced by BofA’s diversity scores, bankers feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. “I am gay and feel very comfortable being myself around my colleagues and talking about my life,” another respondent adds. “My boyfriend has come to numerous work events and met my coworkers. Additionally, the bank has announced a childcare reimbursement policy for same sex couples adopting or having a child through IVF. Bank of America is a great place to be out at work.”


PJT Partners was this year’s lone entrant into the Top 10, bouncing from 21st to 9th. One reason? The firm didn’t participate in the survey last year, Derek Loosvelt admits. Still, PJT Partners reinforced its status as a firm to watch for 2021 by breaking into the Top 10 for Prestige.

“It’s possible and probable that it took some time for the industry at large (or, at least, the bankers that take our survey) to recognize that PJT Partners used to be Blackstone’s advisory group—it was spun off by Blackstone in 2015,” Loosvelt observes. “Blackstone, when it operated in investment banking, used to rank near the top in our prestige rankings. Also, PJT Partners is doing very well, in M&A in particular. I believe it ranked No. 7 in announced U.S. M&A transaction volume last year, and No. 9 globally.”

Still, PJT Partners remains a work-in-progress, one that is open to suggestion and carries a bias for action. “Given the firm’s culture of transparency and collaboration, there is definitely a focus on career development (at all levels from analyst to partner),” adds another survey-taker. “Even outside of the firm’s very extensive formal review processes at both mid-year and year-end, there are numerous other opportunities to get feedback from managers and deal teams. In addition, the firm has an active Talent & Development Committee with representatives from all groups and at all levels—it’s another forum to discuss and address career development. As an example based on feedback at that committee, the firm implemented presentation and public speaking training with Templar, an outside vendor.”

The firm is also doing business the right way – and has seemingly turned the proverbial corner adds another survey-taker. “Our firm is really hitting its stride and has a lot of positive momentum, in terms of competition and employee development. Growth has been strong over the last three years. Employee morale is strong, and the firm does all it can to ensure that everyone is happy.”


PJT Partners wasn’t the only new entry into the Vault Banking 50 in 2020. Bankers from Nomura and BMO also joined in and completed surveys last fall. As a result, their rankings rose from 34 to 17 and 32 to 18 respectively. Still, Vault’s top end is missing some powerful incumbents, including Barclays, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank. That’s because each of these firms declined to participate in the Banking 50. As a result, their ranking is based exclusively on peers evaluating their Prestige. Missing 60% of the weighted criteria, none of these firms could break into Vault’s Top 20.

Beyond the Top 10, there was little movement in the Vault Banking 50. Greenhill & Company tumbled from 5th to 11th. Moelis followed suit by losing five spots to 10th. With Prestige, Harris Williams was the only firm to gain more than four spots, rising from 46th to 35th. Overall, the Banking 50 added just two new firms to list, with the highest debut coming at 49th (Mizuho Financial Group).

Such results reflect the conservative nature of banking. Forget cool gadgets and fancy dates, let alone tales of dominion and debauchery. More often, investment banking can be a life of 80-hour weeks, toiling to turn mounds of data into PowerPoint decks. Most times, bankers are more Willy Loman than Gordon Gekko, the quiet cog who grinds instead of the big shot who preens. These days, bro culture has given way to justice and impact, as banks fend off the allure of technology and startups with the promise of funding social good. That doesn’t mean the marquee attraction of investment banking – making money – has gone by the wayside says Vault’s Derek Loosvelt.


Vault Finance Editor Derek Loosvelt

“Salary and bonuses remain strong in the industry,” he observes. “Judging by the survey comments we received from bankers this year and from the quantitative data we compiled, bankers are more satisfied with their overall compensation packages this year versus last year. This leads me to believe that, when it comes to comp, banks are keeping up with other high-paying industries, like tech. As far as benefits, more banks are offering 401(k) matching, better health and wellness benefits like gym reimbursements and in-house gyms, and a relaxed dress code. As for why, I think banks are listening to what their employees want, as well as trying to compete with other industries. I see this happening across the Street. I don’t believe one particular firm is leading the way at the moment. Though, of the big banks, Goldman Sachs has historically led when it comes to progressive workplace policies.”

Those competitive enticements extend into workplace perks too, Loosvelt adds. “In recent years, many banks have adopted “protected weekend” policies for full-time professionals and “no working past midnight” policies for interns. Also, we hear that, for the most part, “facetime” is a thing of the past and senior bankers are very mindful of juniors’ time. Again, I think why has to do with banks listening to what their current professionals are telling them they need in order to stay for the long term, as well as wanting to better compete with other industries (tech, fintech, startups, etc.). Of the big banks, Goldman was most vocal about these types of policies in the past. Now, everyone has pretty much caught up.”

Now that the top players are on the same page, what does Loosvelt expect to change for next year? Based on reviewing comments from survey respondents, he sees a broader mix of optimism and caution driving the coming year. “Most bankers tell us business has been good and deal markets are strong, but they had concerns about a possible downturn. So, at the moment, morale and satisfaction are high in general across the Street, but that could change if the economy stumbles.”

Click on the following links for detailed ranking and satisfaction data on the Vault Banking 50.






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